A good restaurant, much as a person, grows old well or grows old and stale and sometimes does not, thus, survive. Those of us who have liked the restaurant feel both remorse and, sometimes, even anger as we see its potential passing. Bistro 491 may provoke such sadness. If the last two years indicate much it is the weariness of the Bistro's operation. In Augusta the burden of the Masters is not unlike that of the Christmas season on retailing in the nation. That said, two tournaments ago regulars found themselves eyeing a half-empty restaurant with empties on the floor staying vacant from double bookings that had left owner and help stunned. Like many regulars stuck in cramped corners of back rooms, we stayed away after that, eventually returning for the fine lunches begun again with a slender staff but a skilled one. Evenings eventually proved the invisible but competent kitchen could still be reliable. The sizzle of the founder, long gone, whose errors were always those of ambition or excitement, had left a good restaurant on sound footing. That footing is slippery--rather much predicated on history and location. Augusta is a city desperate for more fine establishments, a few having been added over the last two years. The Bistro best be aware competition is increasing and indolence is its own reward.
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